Outdoor dining tents can still impose a risk of Covid-19 exposure

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA)- Many restaurants added covers and heat to their outdoor seating areas. You can find some at various downtown Champaign restaurants. Public health still considers these tents to meet outdoor dining guidelines. But, the University of Illinois’ community health department said they can still run a risk of being exposed to Covid-19.

“We have this vast amount of air that’s keeping us in the fresh air and when we’re indoors we don’t, and so when we take something that’s technically outside but make it look like inside by adding walls and a roof,  you’re basically taking away the value that is the outdoors,” Justine Kaplan said.

Below outlines the guidance of outdoor dining guidelines from the Champaign Urbana public health department. 

(A) Tents and Other Outdoor Structures for Multiple Tables/Separate Dining Groups

Provided they comply with all required municipal and/or local liquor commission restrictions

and approvals, temporary outdoor structures, including tents, are permissible if they comply with

the following requirements:

• Temporary outdoor structures must have at least 50% of the sides open to provide adequateair flow;

• Patrons inside a temporary outdoor structure must be seated, and tables must be spaced a

minimum of six feet apart;

• All structural materials should have a fire-resistant certification or flame certification

showing material is fire-rated or noncombustible;

• Restaurants will need inclement weather plans in writing and trained to staff to prevent any

injuries in storms, snow, or other unsafe situations

(B) Tents or Domes/Igloos for Single Table Dining Groups

• Single party only (subject to mitigation restrictions on dining party size);

• The structure must maintain air circulation at all times, for example via an open door, two

opposing window/side openings or an open roof panel or panels. Interactions with waitstaff

should be brief and all parties must have masks on during these exchanges.

• Sanitize the chairs and table after each use; and

• Servers and other wait staff to minimize their time in the structure, including instituting

measures such as a QR Code menu.

(C) Heating Devices

Businesses should consult with local municipalities and ensure compliance with local and state

fire codes to determine if heating devices are permitted within a temporary outdoor structure, and if

so, how to operate the device within the structure. Assuming the heating device is permitted,

establishments should follow these additional safety considerations to ensure responsible operations:

• Outdoor spaces with heating devices must keep devices away from combustible materials,

such as tents, at all times

• Enclosed areas with heating devices must have clearly marked entrances and exits

• Businesses must have sufficient fire extinguishers to cover indoor and outdoor spaces

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